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Moroccan cuisine is influenced by Morocco's interactions and exchanges with other cultures and nations over the centuries. Moroccan cuisine is usually a mix of Arab, Berber, Andalusi, and Mediterranean cuisines, with slight European (French and Spanish) and sub-Saharan influences.
According to Moroccan chef and cuisine researcher Hossin Houari, the oldest traces of Moroccan cuisine that can still be observed today, go back to the 7th century BC.
Morocco produces a large range of Mediterranean fruits and vegetables, as well as tropical products like snails. Common meats include beef, goat, mutton and lamb, which, together with chicken and seafood, serve as a base for the cuisine. Characteristic flavorings include lemon pickle, argan oil, preserved butter (smen), olive oil, and dried fruits.
The staple grain today is wheat, used for bread and couscous, though until the mid-20th century, barley was an important staple, especially in the south. Grapes are mostly eaten fresh, as a dessert; wine consumption is only about 1 liter per capita per year. The traditional cooking fats are butter and animal fat, though olive oil is now replacing them. Butter is used both fresh, zebeda, and preserved, smen.
Spices are used extensively in Moroccan food. Although some spices have been imported to Morocco through the Arabs for thousands of years, many ingredients—like saffron from Talaouine, mint and olives from Meknes, and oranges and lemons from Fes—are home-grown, and are being exported. Common spices include cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, ginger, paprika, coriander, saffron, mace, cloves, fennel, anise, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, fenugreek, caraway, black pepper and sesame seeds. Twenty-seven spices are combined for the Moroccan spice mixture ras el hanout.
Common herbs in Moroccan cuisine include mint, parsley, coriander, oregano, peppermint, marjoram, verbena, sage and bay laurel.
A typical lunch begins with a series of hot and cold salads, followed by a tagine or dwaz. Often, for a formal meal, a lamb or chicken dish is next, or couscous topped with meat and vegetables.
Moroccans eat either with fork, knife and spoon, or with their hands using bread as a utensil, depending on the dish served.
The consumption of pork and alcohol is uncommon due to religious restrictions.
See also: List of Moroccan dishes
The main Moroccan dish people are most familiar with is couscous; beef is the most commonly eaten red meat in Morocco, usually eaten in a tagine with a wide selection of vegetables. Chicken is also very commonly used in tagines or roasted. They also use additional ingredients such as plums, boiled eggs, and lemon. Like their national food, the tagine has a unique taste of popular spices such as saffron, cumin, cinnamon, ginger, and cilantro, as well as ground red pepper.
Since Morocco lies on two coasts, the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, Moroccan cuisine has ample seafood dishes. European pilchard is caught in large but declining quantities. Other fish species include mackerel, anchovy, sardinella, and horse mackerel.
Other famous Moroccan dishes are pastilla (also spelled basteeya or bestilla), tanjia, and rfissa.
A big part of the daily meal is bread. Bread in Morocco is principally made from durum wheat semolina known as khobz. Bakeries are very common throughout Morocco and fresh bread is a staple in every city, town, and village. The most common is whole-grain coarse ground or white-flour bread or baguettes. There are also a number of flat breads and pulled unleavened pan-fried breads.
In addition, there are dried salted meats and salted preserved meats such as khlea and g'did (basically sheep bacon), which are used to flavor tagines or used in el rghaif, a folded savory Moroccan pancake.
Harira, a typical heavy soup, eaten during winter to warm up and is usually served for dinner. It is typically eaten with plain bread or with dates during the month of Ramadan. Bissara is a broad bean-based soup that is also consumed during the colder months of the year.
Salads include both raw and cooked vegetables, served either hot or cold. include zaalouk, an aubergine and tomato mixture, and taktouka (a mixture of tomatoes, smoked green peppers, garlic, and spices) characteristic of the cities of Taza and Fes, in the Atlas. Another cold salad is called bakoula, or khoubiza, consisting of braised mallow leaves, but can also be made with spinach or arugula, with parsley, cilantro, lemon, olive oil, and olives.
Usually, seasonal fruits rather than cooked desserts are served at the close of a meal. A common dessert is kaab el ghzal (كعب الغزال, gazelle ankles), a pastry stuffed with almond paste and topped with sugar. Another is halwa chebakia, pretzel-shaped dough deep-fried, soaked in honey and sprinkled with sesame seeds; it is eaten during the month of Ramadan. Jowhara is a delicacy typical of Fes, made with fried waraq pastry, cream, and toasted almond slices. Coconut fudge cakes, 'Zucre Coco', are popular also.
See also: Fishing industry in Morocco
Morocco is endowed with over 3000 km of coastline. There is an abundance of fish in these coastal waters with the sardine being commercially significant as Morocco is the world's largest exporter. Sardines were used in the production of garum in Lixus.
At Moroccan fish markets one can find sole, swordfish, tuna, turbot, mackerel, shrimp, conger eel, skate, red snapper, spider crab, lobster and a variety of mollusks.
In Moroccan cuisine, seafood is incorporated into, among others, tajines, bastilla, briouat, and paella.
Main article: Moroccan tea culture
The most popular drink is Moroccan mint tea, locally called atay. Traditionally, making good mint tea in Morocco is considered an art form and the drinking of it with friends and family is often a daily tradition. The pouring technique is as crucial as the quality of the tea itself. Moroccan tea pots have long, curved pouring spouts and this allows the tea to be poured evenly into tiny glasses from a height. For the best taste, glasses are filled in two stages. The Moroccans traditionally like tea with bubbles, so while pouring they hold the teapot high above the glasses. Finally, the tea is accompanied with hard sugar cones or lumps. Morocco has an abundance of oranges and tangerines, so fresh orange juice is easily found and inexpensive.
Selling fast food in the street has long been a tradition, and the best example is Djemaa el Fna square in Marrakech. Ma'quda is a potato fritter popular among students and people of modest means, particularly in Fes. Starting in the 1980s, new snack restaurants, primarily in the north, started serving bocadillos (a Spanish word for a sandwich).
Dairy product shops locally called mhlaba (محْلَبة), are very prevalent all around the country. Those dairy stores generally offer all types of dairy products, juices, smoothies, and local fare such as bocadillos, msemmen and harcha.
The khanz u-bnīn (خانز وبنين "stinky and delicious") is a cheap and popular street sandwich.
Another popular street food in Morocco is snails, served in their juices in small bowls, and eaten using a toothpick.
In the late 1990s, several multinational fast-food franchises opened restaurants in major cities.
Among those who have brought Moroccan cuisine to a wider audience are TV chef Choumicha and Al-Amīn al-Hajj Mustafa an-Nakīr, chef to the former king of Morocco Hassan II.